Friday, April 30, 2010
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SAILING by Christopher Cross
When I first started my agency, feels like eons ago now, I remember how hard it was to land clients in those initial 2-3 years. After all, I was just some new agent and out in Denver to boot. Now there are so many good agents outside of New York, folks don’t really blink an eye but then, it was a bit of hurdle. I certainly wasn’t high on anyone’s radar. In fact, the previous agency I worked for did nothing but nonfiction.
I was on my own when it came to signing up fiction clients.
So in thinking back, I remember what I did to build my list.
1. I read queries and sample pages in record time. Seriously, I could turn around anything in like two weeks. I figured if I got there first, I might have a chance to convince an author to sign with my newbie but growing agency. I actually aspire to get back to that model—some day. When I catch up. Grin.
2. I did fiction and nonfiction in those early days. Huge mistake. I have no innate ability for good nonfiction (excluding the memoir which I love but is hard to find). Prescriptive nonfiction is definitely not my bailiwick!
3. I took on authors with a voice—even if they needed a ton of editing work. Other agents weren’t fighting for those projects (or not as much). I got those novels into shape and ready to shop. These days, I’m not sure I'd have the time to put in that amount of editorial work. Just to be clear, I still do intense editing if needed but we turn it around in one draft rather than three or four. But the three, four, or fifth draft wasn’t unusual back in the early days. Should I return to that model? I don’t think I’d have enough time to really manage my current client list if I did that and they come first. But this might be one reason to look for a newer, hungrier agent—like Sara Megibow. She’s definitely putting in a little elbow grease and it’s paying off.
On this blog, I’ve also previously mentioned agents like Holly Root and Barbara Poelle who are actively building lists. I just recently met Joanna Stampfel-Volpe and Suzie Townsend at the Missouri Writers Guild Conference. If they aren’t on your radar, they should be. They are going to be my stiff competition in the near future—if they aren’t there already. Grin.
4. I lost any number of possible clients to more established agents. I was always gracious and encouraging when that happened. Good Karma and all. I’ve gotten writer recommends from some of those folks that didn't sign with me but remembered that. It did pay off but not in the way I had originally imagined.
5. I started my blog Pubrants back in 2006 as a way to maybe get a leg up over the competition. Writers would know me from my blog. This, by far, has had the biggest impact on my success. I owe the blog to getting such wonderful clients as Sherry Thomas, Sarah Rees Brennan, Jamie Ford, and Courtney Milan (and probably others but I can’t think of them right now….)
ps. Lala is shutting down so sadly, I can no longer embed songs onto my blogs until I find a new medium. Any suggestions? I'm bummed.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? OPPORTUNITIES by Pet Shop Boys
I’m sure that those of you who have struggled to find an agent as of late won’t believe me but writers are a hot commodity at the moment.
More so then I’ve seen in my whole career.
For the last six months, any project Sara or I have wanted, we’ve had to fight for. In other words, when we offered rep, the author already had, bare minimum, five other agent offers on the table in addition to ours.
Ack. What is up? Talk about stiff competition. Every time I see the sale on Deal Lunch for one of those projects we wanted, I can’t help but groan aloud. Grin.
I thought it was just me but then an agent friend emailed me this morning to literally to say the same thing and had I noticed the increased competition for any project. We ended up in round robin email groan fest on the topic with another agent for most of the morning.
But seriously, I’ve noticed it. In 8 years it hasn’t been as tough as I’ve seen these last 6 months.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? GEORGIA ON MY MIND by Willie Nelson
Okay, I know you guys are probably getting sick of these announcements but I have to celebrate when milestones happen and what better way then to announce it on the blog.
This year has been an amazing one for Nelson Literary Agency and the New York Times List. We’ve had two authors debut for the first time on the list (and in the same month to boot!). Jamie Ford’s Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet has literally been on the regular NYT list or the extended list for 6 months straight.
I mean, holy cow.
Then today marks a new milestone. Today I have 3 authors on the NYT list at the same time. This has got to stop as the bar is getting raised seriously too high. Still, I’m grinning.
And for those of you who wonder how the NYT list works, the bestseller list is announced the week before it hits publication so today I’m getting the news for the May 9 list.
Huge congrats to:
Simone Elkeles at #3 for a second week in a row.
And to Gail Carriger who is back on the extended list at #33 after having one week off. That’s three weeks on the list.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? OVER THE RAINBOW/WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Before you head off to post a free novel on your website, you might want to spend some time learning about the pros and cons of doing so.
In my opinion, yesterday’s post is probably most useful for writers looking to break in. If you are already traditionally published and have a publisher, this could be of value but you need a clear plan and the blessing of your publisher.
There are some contractual things you need to keep in mind before you post stuff for free or embrace Creative Commons or pursue other online experiments. Since the beginning of the year, author Cory Doctorow has been chronicling his experiences with free electronic books in Publishers Weekly.
If you haven’t had a chance to read his monthly columns, I think they are definitely worth a read. Here is a link to get you started. There’s no need for me to repeat what Cory says in his articles and so much more eloquently.
One of the things I want to highlight is that Cory is embarking on this documented journey with the full knowledge and support of his publisher Tor/Forge. As a published author, you have terms in your traditional publishing contracts that you must abide by. Posting things for free could get you in trouble. For example, a non-compete clause. Depending on how that’s worded and what the parameters are in your contract, uploading free material could be deemed a competing work with what your publisher is currently publishing for you. Or it might not.
My suggestion? Be sure to have full communication with your agent and your editor about your desire to explore these kinds of avenues. My guess is the publishers are keen to see what authors can do with creative endeavors but would be less enthusiastic if kept out of the loop.
Monday, April 26, 2010
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MANIC MONDAY by Finn Wallace
This weekend I was at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs. I consider that one and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers to be my hometown conferences and so I almost always attend.
This year was perfect. Sara popped down on Saturday to take pitches all day (and she was hugely popular!) and I just got to have fun by teaching two workshops. On Sunday morning, I sat on a panel entitled Industry Changes with Scott Hoffman from Folio and Kathleen Gilligan from Thomas Dunne Books.
Since you can’t talk about industry changes without talking about electronic books these days, that pretty much dominated the conversation (and a lively one at that!).
One participant asked a particularly interesting question. She asked what the three of us thought about a writer putting an entire novel out on the web to build an audience.
I have a feeling that some of you might be interested in our response. I can’t speak for Scott or Kathleen but I’m happy to share some of my thoughts on the topic.
1. In general, I have no problem with writers giving out material for free to build a following. I’m a little bit leery about having an entire novel out there for everybody to read but it’s not going to destroy your chances of doing traditional publishing later. In fact, if you can track the number of downloads and can prove that thousands of people have voluntarily downloaded and read your novel, well, that just might be an interesting way to catch an editor’s attention. It would probably catch my attention. However, it would have to be verifiable—as in we can’t just take your word for it.
2. Another possibility is to have the writer serialize the work (as in only give portions of the work at a time to a subscription list) if intending to pursue traditional publishing later for that same work. That way the work in its entirety isn’t easily available online.
3. Along the same line of thought, a writer might put a novel out there that will always be available for free and use it to platform a totally different second novel that the writer plans to use to explore the more traditional publishing route.
The above discussion led (as you can imagine) into what we thought about self-publishing a work to build a similar audience. As self- publishing becomes more professional, accessible, and easy to manipulate, it certainly wouldn’t surprise us if writers were to explore this as a possibility.
Here’s something to keep in mind though (besides the fact that self published books need solid marketing efforts to succeed). Self-published books (through Lulu or similar) are assigned an ISBN—a sales identifier for that work. And here’s where the ISBN could hurt you. Once a book has an ISBN, then sales of that book can be tracked on Bookscan. If the books sell thousands and thousands of copies, not a problem but if the book sells only 20 copies, this could potentially make the road to traditional publishing more difficult. Editors often check Bookscan when considering previously published writers. Book Buyers at the major chains are looking at these numbers as well.
If the sales record is strong, no big deal; if it’s not, those low sales could create a roadblock unless the writer is willing to change his/her name to start with a clean slate.
I’m putting this out there because I imagine a lot of writers contemplating this route might not have considered the potential ISBN trap.
Friday, April 23, 2010
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BOP AGAIN by The Heath Brothers
My client Marie sent this blog link our way. It’s definitely good for giggle. A fun excuse for incorrect grammar and punctuation.
Enjoy and Happy Friday!
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MY STUPID MOUTH by John Mayer
Squee! Simone Elkeles’s RULES OF ATTRACTION has just hit the NYT bestseller list—coming in at #3 after Hunger Games and Catching Fire.
We are speechless but just thrilled. Simone, you so deserve this. You are one of the hardest working authors I know and you paid your dues for this NYT list hit as Rules is your sixth novel. Even more sweet given the fact that Rules is the sequel to Perfect Chemistry—a novel that we had trouble selling originally.
Oh, and Happy Birthday Simone. Isn’t this the best gift ever?
And this may sound like an odd reaction but I think I might just want to lay my head down on my desk and cry. When I started my agency in 2002, never in a million years did I dream of this kind of success. This the fourth NLA author to appear on the New York Times bestseller list and the seventh novel to hit.
I feel emotional and very very blessed.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? GREETINGS TO THE NEW BRUNETTE by Billy Brag
Today is a little potpourri of things.
1. Penguin Australia issued a more formal apology for Cookbook misprint. Sounds like a PR person got a hold of the situation. Grin.
2. Foreign rights co-agent did not make it to London (as you probably have already guessed). On the upside, perhaps more folks will come to BEA at the end of May. As you can imagine, reports from the LBF floor have been quiet. Great for the folks who did make it there though. Will the lack of a robust LBF deter foreign sales? Well, nothing beats conveying enthusiasm for a title in person so that’s the downside for sure. On the whole, I don’t think so. It will be hard to have the “big book of the fair” but I imagine most sales will get done via email and phone.
I don’t envy their journey home…
3. Business has resumed in Poland. We’ve been careful about waiting but today we got emails from folks in that territory so we felt comfortable resuming communication, negotiations, etc.
4. In watching Deal Lunch for the last couple of months, I’m starting to see quite a few more sales listed than I have in the past months. This is a good sign as I take it to mean that editors are starting to get back to buying.
Monday, April 19, 2010
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? 40 DOGS (LIKE ROMEO AND JULIET) by Bob Schneider
As all writers should already know, spell check is your friend but it’s not a savior. If the typo is one that won’t be caught by a simple spell check program, you might be in a world of trouble.
A fact that Penguin Australia recently discovered when they had to reprint 7000 copies of a cookbook…
Most people should laugh as that’s quite the whopper of an error but part of me thinks that maybe Mr. Sessions should have consulted with a PR person and just admitted some mortification over the snafu rather than making a statement that he didn’t understand why people might find the error offensive. Err on the side of sensitive I’m thinking.
Just an observation. Grin.
Friday, April 16, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHERRY BOMB by John Mellencamp
Here in the United States, we are often insulated from world news but events of the past two weeks have had a huge impact on publishing in the international arena. Even as US agents, we have to be aware and sensitive to all that is going on abroad.
Case in point, Post-Bologna, we were negotiating some new foreign rights deals when the huge tragedy in Poland hit the newswires. Immediately, we put everything on hold in that territory (and there was a lot going on!). The whole country is in mourning. Now is not the time.
And then this past Wednesday, a Volcano erupts in Iceland. Probably just a blip on your radar until one realizes that most transatlantic flights crossover Iceland to get to Europe and the London Book Fair is supposed to start next week. LBF is not as big as Frankfurt for translation deals but it’s big enough. According to the Fair officials, they plan to stay on schedule despite the near impossibility it will be for people to actually reach London in time for the fair.
Of all the things that could disrupt travel to an international event, I can’t imagine any agent had “volcanic ash” on the list for travel interruptions. All I can say is that as much as I love being in London, I’m glad I had no plans to be at the fair this year as I was just in Bologna. This is not true of our foreign rights co-agent who I know was en route. I’m trying to find out if she made it there or not.
I really want next week to be a quiet one in terms of news items…
Thursday, April 15, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? STAY UP LATE by Talking Heads
From a lot of my posts lately, I imagine that you think all my recent conversations with contract directors at the big houses have been contentious.
In reality, that hasn’t been so. I have to say, that I personally like all the contracts directors at the major houses. They are under the gun and yet they’ve handled differences of opinions with good temper, grace, and with reason—even if I don’t agree with their stance.
In fact, one of the contract directors from a big six house even made me spit coffee and sputter with laughter in our last conversation.
When I mentioned that I didn’t agree with the 25% of net publishers were currently sticking with and that I was not inclined to accept the same percentage if we were to negotiate an expanded or enhanced electronic book, the director, totally deadpanned, quipped in return that I must obviously share his opinion that the split percentage to the author should be lower for an enhanced ebook as they are more expensive to produce.
I was so surprised that I just burst out laughing as did my contracts manager. You gotta respect a contracts director with a sense of humor. Grin.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOME by Daughtry
Rumor has it that several of the big 6 publishers are coming out with new boilerplate contracts in the next couple of weeks. I know for sure that Hachette is working on a new one as is HarperCollins.
With these new “boilerplates,” I already know there is going to be a significant difference in opinion about what a Publisher thinks is a boilerplate item and what an Agent will consider as a boilerplate item versus a right that needs to be negotiated up front.
I have a feeling (call it intuition—snort) that the definition of what constitutes an “enhanced ebook” or a “multimedia product” (that’s a new catch phrase I’ve been hearing as of late) will be at the center of these new boilerplate contract debates between publishers and agents.
I, myself, have yet to see a new “boilerplate” contract but am waiting with bated breath… Oh being an agent is just daily fun.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU CAN LEAVE YOUR HAT ON by Joe Cocker
Pre-Bologna, I had not finished up our last round of questions and answers. I didn’t forget! I just haven’t had enough time to tackle them in a while. But I did save the questions and so I plan to dive right back in.
1) Who do you decide "gets" a project if you and Sara both want it? If someone queried "Kristin" or "Sara" and got back a partial request "from Kristin and Sara" does that mean you'll both consider it and whoever likes it best might take it on? Or does that mean only the one it's addressed to will consider it?
This is a good question. If the original query is addressed to Sara, then she has first dibs on it. If the query is addressed to me, then I do. We both, however, tend to read the submissions where a full is requested. Just so we can talk about the project and why one or the other might like it or want to offer representation. Sometimes, I like a project and it’s not Sara’s cup of tea and vice versa. That way if we both read the fulls requested (regardless of who asked for it), we know we won’t miss out on something that might come down to a difference in taste.
2) You are known for sending out a book until it sells, whereas some agents only send to ten or twelve and they are done. But do you have a list of favorite editors who you contact first no matter what?
Agents certainly have a list of their favorite editors. These are the people we connect with the most. We know our tastes line up etc. However, each submission is different. As an agent, we want the right editor to have it—not just a favorite editor so the answer is no, there isn’t a list of editors who get a submission no matter what.
You seem to have a lot going on in the YA market. But as a romance writer, I wondered how many romance writers did you sign last year? And are you looking for more?
Hum…I’d say with 6 RITA nominations the week before last, we’ve got a lot going on in the romance world as well. Grin. Are we looking for more? Of course! There is always room for a good author. However, in general, I don’t sign a lot of clients in any given year. I’m very selective on who and what I take on. Last year I signed only one romance author. To put that in context, I only signed 2 authors total last year.
What are your biggest pet peeves for queries, and do you have a list of things you saw in past queries that rocked your socks off?
For queries, my only criteria be that it is well written and fit in the types of projects we currently represent. Otherwise, I don’t have any specific pet peeves. Peeves come from poorly written queries. For those, we just send the auto-rejection and move on. For queries that knocked our socks off? The writer had nailed the pitch paragraph. If you don’t know what I mean by that, check out my blog pitch workshop right here on the right sidebar of my blog.
Mechelle Fogelsong asked:
Nathan Bransford recently asked us which author's career we'd like to mimic. I chose Jane Yolen, because her career has longevity. So my question is simple: what's the key to becoming an author with longevity? To stay afloat for the long-haul?
The key to longevity is creating an excellent sales track record and continuing to write books that feel timely, fresh, and appeal to your established audience as well as to new fans.
Right. So much easier said than done. That’s why there is no answer to this question about what creates author longevity. It’s so many factors that come together and work. And those specific factors may differ depending on the author. In other words, what works for one career might not work for another.
Going for the long shot here, but I haven't started querying yet and I'm still feeling optimistic. What is the exact etiquette if you're offered representation and someone else has the full? To the agent on the phone with, what do you say? And to the person with the full, do you phone them? E-mail?
The etiquette: If an agent calls and offers representation, you go through all the normal questions you should be asking an agent who has offered rep. Then you express your enthusiasm for the offer but since it’s a big decision, you want to give all agents with fulls time to respond. Set a timeline for one you will get back to the offering agent. That time frame can be one week, five full business days, over the weekend (whatever feels appropriate). Then inform all other agents with the full. I’d send an email first. If you don’t get a confirm after one day regarding your update, then I’d call to make sure the message was received. After that, I think you’ve done all the due diligence you need to.
Then stick to the timeline you had requested. And of course, if the first agent who has offered is your top candidate, there might not be any reason to go through the above. Of course if you do accept representation, then immediately inform all others with the full so they don’t waste time reading a manuscript that is no longer available. Hope this helps!
Monday, April 12, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? NEED YOU TONIGHT by INXS
As you folks know, I’ve been on planes quite a bit in the past month. And here is how I know that the tipping point is potentially here (or near) where eBooks are concerned.
On one leg of my trip, I sat next to a 60+ grandmother (by her own admission) who saw me reading on my Kindle.
Grandmother: “That’s a new eReader, isn’t it? Where did you get that?”
Me: “This particularly eReader is called a Kindle and I bought it through Amazon but Sony and BN and a couple of other companies sell eReaders as well. You can buy them online at Amazon or go into Best Buy etc.” [For the record, I do try and promote equal opportunity purchases for electronic readers! I even mentioned the iPad.]
Her: “I read at least 3 novels a week! I’d love not to have to carry all these books around. I’m going on a cruise this week. [Leaning over to look at the text on my Kindle] Looks like you can up the font on that.” I gotta get me one of those.”
Me: “Yes, you can change the font size.”
Her: “That does it. I’m asking for it for my birthday and Mother’s day combined. If my children can buy a $200 game program for my grandkids, they can buy me one of those.”
In chatting with her a bit more, this grandmother was from Pueblo, Colorado—a smaller but good-sized town in South Colorado. Probably not too far off the core of “middle America.”
When I’ve got an older grandmother expressing unabashed enthusiasm in owning an eReader, I can’t help but think the tipping point is near—even if current electronic sales only equal about 2% of the market right now (statistic via a recent PW article).
I think a lot of us assumed the older generation would be the luddites where this new technology is concerned but through my anecdotal experiences, I’m not finding that to be true…
Friday, April 09, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? BEEN CAUGHT STEALING by Jane’s Addiction
As you can imagine, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with various Contract Directors at all the major publishing houses as of late as we navigate contract negotiation.
I was in discussion with one person from a Big 6 house and we got to talking about returns with electronic books. Were they going to be allowed on the agency commission model that publishers have with entities like Apple?
According to this contracts person, the answer was yes.
So I asked what I thought was a rather pertinent question. I said, “if Apple allows returns and they’ve already deducted the 30% agency commission from the sale, how will the publisher know that the commission should have been refunded to them for the returned-sale of that title?”
Contracts person: “Good question.”
Glad I could be of some help…
Thursday, April 08, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? Nothing at the moment
Last of the Bologna Pics! Enjoy. I’ll get back to topics soon—once I’ve fully recovered.
Gelato! The only way to take a break during the Bologna Book Fair! Here Ally Carter and I indulge with Tim for Brilliance Audio and Marisa from Bolinda Audio Down Under.
Ally's Italian publisher also had her pop by BoLibri--the book festival that was going on in downtown Bologna at the same time as the fair. It's a way to allow the public to interact more with all the events going on at the fair. Here she sits on an Alice in Wonderland type chair to sign book copies.
Ally wasn't the only author at the BoLibri festival. Here she is with author Kristin Cashore (Graceling). As for me, I'm predisposed to like Kristin as she spells her name correctly. Grin. Not 15 minutes later we got to watch Ms. Cashore's prowess with a sword. Good thing BoLibri didn't make Ally do something similar like rappel over a wall to demonstrate a Gallagher Girl move. Watching Kristin, it looked like hard work!
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? COME ON AND GET HIGHER by Matt Nathanson
Squee!!! Gail Carriger’s CHANGELESS (the second book in the Parasol Protectorate Series) just hit the New York Times bestseller list coming in at #20.
That’s the real list, baby, not even doing the extended list to start. I’m so thrilled for you Gail.
And this is NLA’s third NYT bestseller this year. Much celebrating ensues. Ps. And HOTEL is still on the extended list so that means I have two authors on the NYT list at the same time again. Second time this year. Gotta quit upping the stakes like this...Grin.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
STATUS: Feeling much better although that’s not hard to do after how awful I felt during the last two days. To be a little gross, I can’t believe my body can produce this much mucus. Blah. Kristin—1 Flu--9
What’s playing on the iPod right now? HARVEST MOON by Neil Young
This post is long overdue as the news came in last week—and big news it was. Nelson Literary Agency has 6 RITA nominations for 2010! Woot.
Biggest congrats to Carolyn Jewel who is a double finalist! Much deserved Carolyn as I think you are an amazing writer who is flying under the radar and shouldn’t be.
2010 RITA for Historical Romance Finalist
2010 RITA for Paranormal Romance Finalist
2010 RITA for Regency Historical Romance Finalist
2010 RITA for Romance Novella Finalists
“This Wicked Gift” by Courtney Milan in The Heart of Christmas
2010 RITA for Young Adult Romance
Monday, April 05, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? NOTION by Kings of Leon
As you can imagine, the first week back in the office after being gone for 2 weeks is a bit chaotic. In fact, today I didn’t even make it there thanks to being sick. I really had no desire to pass this lovely illness on to Anita or Sara. If I don’t have a fever tomorrow, maybe I’ll go in but I’m thinking it will be more like Wednesday.
As promised (since blogger is no longer acting up) I can finally share pics from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair so you can get a visual—a little snippet of what it was like to be there. Besides, this is all my brain is capable of doing at the moment.
Here I am sitting at my table in the Agents Center. Behind me is Riley Ellis from 20th Century Fox Studios.
Out to dinner. Author and Agent comraderie! Starting from left: me, clients Sarah Rees Brennan and Ally Carter. Next to Ally is Cassandra Clare's husband Josh, Cassie Clare, Maureen Johnson and her agent Kate Testerman. Cassie's agent Barry Goldblatt is taking the picture.
Jamie Ford's HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, an Italian bestseller, in the front window of the main bookstore in Bologna. That was so cool to see in person.
In the Agents Centre. From left: me, Irene Calpe of Versatil Spain. Next to her is Sarah Rees Brennan. Irene is Sarah's Spanish editor for THE DEMON'S LEXICON. Standing next to her is Consuela, Editorial Director of Versatil.
More pics tomorrow!